John 17 – Jesus’ Great Prayer
“John Knox, on his death-bed in 1572, asked his wife to read to him John 17, ‘where’, he said, ‘I cast my first anchor.’” (Bruce)
A. Jesus prays concerning Himself.
1. (1a) Introduction.
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:
a. Jesus spoke these words: The Bible is filled with great prayers. We are impressed with Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8), Abraham’s prayer (Genesis 18), and Moses’ prayer (Exodus 32), but this prayer is by far the greatest recorded in the Bible.
i. Most of us know what it is to hear a true man or woman of God deep in prayer; there is something holy and awesome about it. Far beyond all that was this prayer Jesus prayed unto His God and Father, which is the only long, continuous prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. The sentences are simple, but the ideas are deep, moving, and meaningful.
ii. “There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son to God Himself.” (Melanchthon, cited in Boice)
iii. Genuine prayer often reveals a person’s innermost being. John 17 is an unique opportunity to see the nature and heart of Jesus. In this prayer, Jesus will touch on many of themes developed in this Gospel: glory, glorify, sent, believe, world, love.
iv. Many of the same concerns of what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) are here in this prayer.
· Prayer is repeatedly directed to God the Father.
· There is recognition of and concern for God’s name.
· There is concern for the work of the kingdom of God.
· There is concern for keeping from evil.
v. Yet there is something different in this prayer; Jesus did not pray just as He told His disciples to pray. “The request of our Lord thus given in John’s seventeenth chapter is clearly no prayer of an inferior to a superior: constantly there is seen in it the co-equality of the Speaker with The Father. The Two have but one mind… Where the Son speaks He is not seeking to bend The Father to Him: rather is He voicing the purpose of the Godhead.” (Trench)
vi. The New Testament tells us that Jesus has an ongoing, present work of intercession for His people (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). “The object being not so much to let us know what He said on a special occasion, as to show the constant attitude of His mind, the informing idea of His unceasing ‘intercession’ for us during the time of His absence.” (Trench)
b. Lifted up His eyes to heaven: This indicates the physical posture of Jesus as He prayed. This is a posture that we don’t usually associate with deep prayer. In the prayer customs of the western world, we often bow our head and close our eyes. Jesus prayed with the customs of prayer common in His own day (John 11:41, Mark 7:34, Psalm 123:1).
i. “In the sacred record, however, much more space is taken up by our Lord’s intercessions as he nears the end of his labors. After the closing supper, his public preaching work being ended, and nothing remaining to be done but to die, he gave himself wholly unto prayer. He was not again to instruct the multitude, nor to heal the sick, and in the interval which remained, before he should lay down his life, he girded himself for special intercession. He poured out his soul in life before he poured it out unto death.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The words lifted up His eyes to heaven also indicate that Jesus looked up in a hopeful sense and was not gloomy or downcast in this prayer. This is actually a prayer of faith and confidence, even victory – all the while acknowledging the reality of the conflict. “We so often understand this prayer as though it were rather gloomy. It is not. It is uttered by One who has just affirmed that He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and it starts from this conviction.” (Morris)
iii. This remarkable prayer is made with a heart and mind looking up towards heaven. Jesus made no mention of His problems or the decisions He must make. His heart and mind were fixed on the highest things, pledging Himself to the absolutely fulfillment of God the Father’s will no matter what the cost, so that eternal life could come to others.
2. (1b) Jesus asks to be glorified.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,”
a. Father, the hour has come: Before, Jesus’ hour of glorification (beginning with His death) had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:8; 7:30; 8:20). Now, the hour has come (as Jesus said before at John 12:23).
i. Note the words: Father… Your Son… Your Son… You. This is a prayer deep and rich with relationship. Jesus prayed with a full and deep sense of the familial relationship and the natural hierarchy or order that exists between God the Father and God the Son.
ii. Father: “And herein he sets us an example: in all times of tribulation let us fall back upon our sonship, our adoption, and the fatherhood of our great God. To our Father let us go, for to whom else should a child so naturally fly?” (Spurgeon)
iii. The hour: “His faith thinks it but an hour: the midnight of Gethsemane, the morning of the scourging, the day of the crucifixion, all are but an hour, a short space. Now is he in trouble, for his time of travail is come; but he counts it as an hour, for joy of that which shall be born into the world by his grievous pangs. Thus his love and patience make him despise the time of shame and reckon it but a brief interval.” (Spurgeon)
b. Glorify Your Son: Jesus prayed first for Himself, but His petition was not selfish. His concern for Himself was actually a concern for the glory of the Father. The Son can only glorify the Father if the Father first answers the prayer of the Son, “Glorify Your Son.”
i. “It will bring no glory to the Father if Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is not acceptable, or if the Son is not restored to his rightful place in the presence of the Father’s unshielded glory. That would mean the divine mission had failed, the purposes of grace forever defeated.” (Carson)
ii. “Father, the hour has come: glorify Thy Son: i.e. make plain to these there that the Man Jesus is also the God-Man; make it plain by His resurrection and ascension.” (Trench)
iii. “This glorification embraced His death, resurrection, and session at God’s right hand, as accredited Mediator.” (Dods)
iv. Jesus gave several reasons or grounds for this prayer, “Glorify Your Son.” If the God the Son made use or reasons or grounds in praying to God the Father, we should much more give attention to giving reasons and grounds for our requests before the throne of God.
· Because the hour has come (John 17:1).
· Because the Father will be glorified (John 17:1).
· Because authority had already been given to grant eternal life (John 17:2).
· Because Jesus is the only way to life (John 17:3).
· Because it finishes the work the Father sent the Son to perform (John 17:3).
c. The hour has come… Glorify Your Son: It is the cross (see John 12:27-33, 13:30-33, 21:18-19) that will glorify the Son. The cross was utter humiliation to the world, but it was an instrument of glorification in God’s eyes. This is an aspect of the foolishness and weakness of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1:23-25).
i. “To men the cross appeared an instrument of shame. To Christ it was the means of true glory.” (Morris)
ii. This prayer was wonderfully answered. “Yes, the Father glorified his Son, even when it pleased him to bruise him and to put him to grief. With one hand he smote, and with the other hand he glorified. There was a power to crush, but there was also a power to sustain working at the self-same time. The Father glorified his Son.” (Spurgeon)
iii. How different are most our prayers. “In one form or another we are constantly asking the Father to glorify us. Glorify me, O Father, we cry, by giving me the largest congregation in the town; by commencing a great revival in my mission, by increasing my spiritual power, so that I shall be greatly sought after. Of course, we do not state our reason quite so concisely; but this is really what we mean. And then we wonder why the answer tarries.” (Meyer)
d. That Your Son also may glorify You: In its counter-intuitive work, the cross glorified Jesus the Son and displayed the wisdom and the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). Yet it also glorified God the Father, by displaying His wise plan and great sacrifice in giving the Son to do such a work.
i. “The Son glorified the Father by revealing in this act [the cross] the sovereignty of God over evil, the compassion of God for men, and the finality of redemption for believers.” (Tenney)
ii. “Christ’s motive should be ours. When you ask a blessing from God, ask it that you may glorify God by it. Do you pine to have your health back again? Be sure that you want to spend it for him. Do you desire temporal advancement? Desire it that you may promote his glory. Do you even long for growth in grace? Ask it only that you may glorify him.” (Spurgeon)
3. (2-3) Jesus speaks of the source and nature of eternal life.
“As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
a. You have given Him authority over all flesh: Jesus claimed to have authority over all flesh with the ability to give eternal life to mankind. This is a clear and startling claim to deity; no One but God could truthfully and knowingly make this claim.
i. Jesus here claimed “authority to determine the ultimate destiny of men.” (Takser)
ii. This gives us new hope for evangelism and missionary work, knowing that Jesus has authority over all flesh. Even for those who reject Jesus or are ignorant of Him, even if they do not know it or acknowledge it, Jesus has authorityover them. We can pray in faith and ask Jesus to exercise that authority over those who have yet to repent and believe.
iii. You have given Him authority over all flesh: Philippians 2:5-11 is a demonstration of this, that all will recognize the authority of Jesus; every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
iv. The believer understands and glories in the authority of Jesus, especially considering the alternative. “Men and women cannot operate without authority. So if you put out one authority, another will come in. If you reject the authority of God, human authority will emerge.” (Boice)
b. That He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him: Jesus understood that He was and is the One who grants eternal life to those given to Him by the Father.
i. “Christians often think of Jesus as God’s gift to us; we rarely think of ourselves as God’s gift to Jesus.” (Carson)
ii. This indicates something that we can dimly understand as a division of labor in the work of salvation between the Persons of the Godhead. Here we see that the Father gives some unto the Son, and the Son gives them eternal life through His work on the cross. Of course, the Holy Spirit also has His work in salvation, unmentioned in this particular passage.
iii. “Here the doctrines of a general and a particular redemption sweetly blend ‘As thou hast given him power over all flesh,’ they are all under Christ’s mediatorial government by virtue of his matchless sacrifice; but the object in view is specially the gift of everlasting life to the chosen people: ‘that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.’” (Spurgeon)
c. And this is eternal life, that they may know You: Eternal life is found in an experiential knowledge (ginosko) of both God the Father and Jesus Christ, God the Son.
i. “In this world we are familiar with the truth that it is a blessing and an inspiration to know certain people. Much more is it the case when we know God.” (Morris)
ii. “Life is active involvement with environment; death is the cessation of involvement with the environment, whether it be physical or personal.” (Tenney) Eternal life means that we are alive and active to God’s environment. If God and His spiritual environment does not affect (and even dominate) our life, then it can be said that we do not have or experience eternal life. If this is true, then we live life in the same dimension that animals live, and we exist as if we are dead to God and His environment.
iii. That they may know You: “In the Greek the verb is in the present subjunctive indicating the ‘knowledge’ is a growing experience.” (Tasker)
4. (4-5) The request is again stated, full of faith: Glorify Me.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
a. I have glorified You on the earth: Jesus did not wait until His work on the cross to glorify God the Father. His entire life glorified God on the earth.
i. Jesus glorified the Father through His whole life, from His circumcision and dedication at the temple (Luke 2:21-23) through His quiet years of obedience in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23, 13:55).
ii. Jesus glorified the Father through His faith, obedience, and work through the years of His earthly ministry. Every sermon preached, every blind or sick person healed, every bit of instruction and training for the disciples, every confrontation with the corrupt religious leaders, every question answered, every loving touch – they all glorified God the Father.
b. I have finished the work: Jesus, with divine confidence and assurance, saw the work on the cross as already finished. There was (of course) a sense in which the work was not finished; but since Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), there is a greater sense in which the work was already finished, completed in the heart and mind of God. Now it just had to be done.
i. There is a similar sense in which God sees our own work of transformation and perfection as already complete, before the fact. Now it has to be done.
ii. “There is a quiet recognition that Jesus has completed His task adequately, and brought glory to the Father in the process.” (Morris)
c. Glorify Me together with Yourself: Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him, but with the same glory that the Father Himself has. Jesus’ prayer was in no way an expression of independence, but of utter and continued dependence upon God the Father.
i. There are many men who cry out “glorify me,” and sometimes they even direct the cry to God under a more spiritual terminology. Yet their cry “glorify me” is almost always completely different than Jesus prayer, “Glorify Me together with Yourself” and the difference is normally between dependence and independence.
d. With the glory which I had with You before the world was: Jesus was aware of His pre-existence, and of the nature of that pre-existence. Jesus understood there was a time in eternity past when God the Son and God the Father enjoyed a shared glory.
i. Jesus could not truthfully or sanely pray this if He were not Yahweh Himself, equal with God the Father. In Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11, Yahweh proclaimed that He shares His glory with no one. If God the Father and God the Son share their glory, they must both be Yahweh.
ii. “He had one main petition: that the Father would receive him back to the glory he had relinquished to accomplish his task. This petition for a return to his pristine glory implies unmistakably his preexistence and equality with the Father. It confirms his claim that he and the Father are one (John 10:30).” (Tenney)
iii. The Gospel of John has emphasized the glory of Jesus throughout its record. John was careful to record the many ways Jesus referred to His own glory in this prayer.
· The life of Jesus was a manifestation of God’s glory, and the disciples beheld this glory (John 1:14).
· The miracles of Jesus manifested His glory (John 2:11).
· Jesus only ever sought the glory of His Father (John 7:18, 8:50).
· The revelation of glory is the reward of faith (John 11:40).
· Many times Jesus spoke of His coming passion and crucifixion as His coming glorification (John 7:39, 12:16, 12:23, 13:31).
· God the Son seeks to glorify God the Father (John 12:28).
· God the Father glorifies God the Son (John 13:31-32).
B. Jesus prays concerning the disciples.
Having taught and encouraged the disciples as much as He could on the eve of their despair, Jesus now did the great thing: He committed them to the Father in prayer.
1. (6-8) Jesus speaks of His mission among the disciples and their reception of it.
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”
a. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me: Jesus thought about the three or so years of ministry and teaching with His chosen disciples, and summarized it with this phrase. It indicates that Jesus did not simply teach about the name (character) of God, He manifested (displayed) that character.
i. Jesus lived out the love and goodness and righteousness and grace and holiness of God the Father; He manifested God’s name to them. “‘I manifested Thy Name,’ i.e. I revealed Thy nature. For any adequate name of a person or thing is the complete connotation of that person or thing.” (Trench)
ii. Believers today have a similar call and duty. Paul wrote that believers are like living letters, read by the world (2 Corinthians 3:2-3), with the responsibility to manifest the name and nature of God to a watching world.
b. The men You have given Me out of the world: Jesus chose His disciples after a night of prayer, expressing His total dependence upon God the Father in the choosing of the men (Luke 6:12-16). Truly, it could be said that God the Father gave these men to Jesus, and gave them out of the world.
i. Judas had departed from this group of disciples sometime earlier that evening (John 13:26-30). With Judas gone, Jesus could truly say, “The men You have given Me out of the world.”
c. They were Yours, You gave them to Me: Here is another hint at the workings of the Persons of the Trinity in what could be called a division of labor. There was some sense in which the disciples first belonged to God the Father, then were given to God the Son.
d. They have kept Your word: One might say that Jesus generously judged His disciples; but He saw a genuine work of God in them. For all their failures and faults, they had kept God’s word.
i. “He looked at them with the insight of faith, hope, and love, and realized their present devotion and their potential for the future.” (Bruce)
e. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You: Jesus plainly told His disciples this shortly before (John 14:10-11) and in the more distant past (John 8:28-29). Jesus did or said nothing on His own initiative, but did and said all in complete dependence upon His God and Father.
f. They have known surely that I came forth from You: The disciples obviously did not understand everything about Jesus and His work, but at this point they were convinced of Divine origin of Jesus and His teaching.
i. “It is a rare and holy privilege to observe the divine Son of God not only formulating his prayers but formulating the grounds for his petitions. These grounds reflect the essential unity of Father and Son, and reveal that Jesus’ prayers for his followers trace their argument back to the inscrutable purposes of Deity.” (Carson)
g. They have believed that You sent Me: One might say that in these few verses, Jesus looked at salvation from two points of view. Each perspective is true from its point of view.
· John 17:6 explains their salvation in the election of God (the men You have given Me out of the world), seeing it from God’s point of view.
· John 17:8 explains their salvation in their faith (they have believed that You sent Me), seeing it from humanity’s point of view.
2. (9-10) Jesus directs His prayer.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”
a. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world: Jesus specifically had His disciples in mind in this prayer. He did not pray in a general sense for the world; instead, Jesus prayed for the disciples who would carry His message of love and redemption to the world.
i. I pray for them: Trench says that the “I” is emphatic in this sentence.
ii. When Jesus said, I do not pray for the world it was not because He did not care for a lost and fallen world; it was to focus on His own disciples. “He was praying for the instrument He was creating, through which He would reach the world.” (Morgan)
iii. “If he does not pray for the world, it is not because he had no concern for the world; he is, indeed, the Saviour of the world (John 4:42; cf. 3:17; 12:47). But the salvation of the world depends on the witness of those whom the Father has given him ‘out of the world’ (see verses 21, 23), and it is they who need his intercession at this junction.” (Bruce)
iv. “I am now wholly employed for my disciples, that they may be properly qualified to preach my salvation to the ends of the earth. Jesus here imitates the high priest, the second part of whose prayer, on the day of expiation, was for the priests, the sons of Aaron.” (Clarke)
b. But for those whom You have given Me: One might say that this has in mind more than simply the eleven disciples, but also those who would believe on their testimony (as is specifically mentioned in John 17:20). Jesus had special focus upon them in prayer because He knew those disciples belonged to the Father (for they are Yours).
i. “There is an old proverb, and I cannot help quoting it just now; it is, ‘Love me, love my dog.’ It is as if the Lord Jesus so loved the Father that even such poor dogs as we are get loved by him for his Father’s sake. To the eyes of Jesus we are radiant with beauty because God hath loved us.” (Spurgeon)
c. All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine: Jesus already spoke of the shared glory between God the Father and God the Son (John 17:5). Here He spoke of their shared role in the life of the redeemed, that believers belong to both God the Father and God the Son.
i. Everything we have belongs to God, but not everything He has belongs to us. Anyone can say to God the Father “all mine are Yours”; but only Jesus could say “and Yours are Mine.”
ii. “Each has full title to the possessions of the other; they share the same interests and responsibilities.” (Tenney)
d. I am glorified in them: In a sense, this is what it means to be a believer, to be born again, to be a true follower of Jesus Christ – to have Him glorified in us. Jesus does not merely want to dwell in or live in the believer, but to be glorified in them.
i. “Just as the world’s values were all wrong concerning the cross, so were the world’s values all wrong concerning the apostolic band. In them the Son of God, none less, was actually glorified.” (Morris)
ii. The Apostle Paul later understood this, using phrases such as Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) and noting that God’s work in us moves from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
iii. No one other than Jesus should be glorified in the believer. Leaders have a tendency to glorify themselves in their followers, but it should only be Jesus.
3. (11-12) Jesus’ first request for the disciples: Father, keep them.
“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
a. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world: Jesus prayed this entire prayer with His soon departure in mind. He realized that He would no longer remain in the world, but His disciples would. They therefore needed special prayer.
· They needed prayer because the unique three years of discipleship during His earthly ministry would be over.
· They needed prayer because of the circumstances surrounding the departure of Jesus; His betrayal, arrest, trial, beatings, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
· They needed prayer because Jesus would not be there in His bodily presence to help them.
· They needed prayer because of the necessary role of the Holy Spirit; both for the sending of the Spirit and their constant reliance upon Him.
i. “Jesus is no longer in the world, already He has bid farewell to it, but the disciples remain in it, exposed without His accustomed counsel and defence.” (Dods)
b. And I come to You: This was not a phrase used to focus Jesus’ thoughts as He prayed, so that He might be conscious of praying in the presence of His Father. This was His recognition that His work on earth was almost done, and He was on His way to heaven.
c. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me: The disciples needed the prayer of Jesus and the power of God the Father to keep them.
i. They must be kept, continuing as disciples of Jesus. This was not obvious; in the Jewish world of that day no one continued as a disciple to a dead rabbi. Yet these disciples were to continue, to be kept as disciples to Jesus.
ii. “You have been redeemed; but you must still be kept. You have been regenerated; but you must be kept. You are pure in heart and hands; but you must be kept.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We need Jesus our intercessor (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25) to pray for us, asking God the Father to keep us. Our continuing on in Jesus is not left to our own efforts alone. The world, the flesh, and the devil are so mighty, so pervasive, and so seductive that we could never keep ourselves in our own efforts. If we stay with Jesus, it is because Jesus has prayed for us “Father, keep them.”
· We need keeping from division: Keep them that they may be one.
· We need keeping from error.
· We need keeping from sin.
· We need keeping from hypocrisy.
iv. Keep through Your name: Jesus didn’t pray, “keep through an angel” or “keep through a church leader” or “keep through their own effort.” The work of keeping a believer is so significant that it takes the name of God – the whole character and authority of God.
v. There is some debate (mainly from Westcott and Hort) if the idea in John 17:11 is keep through Your name those whom You have given Me or keep through Your name which You have given Me. Westcott and Hort believed strongly that in this verse it was the name that was given, not the disciples – with the idea, “keep them in Me who am Thy name, They connotation, revelation, manifestation: keep them in unity with Me.” (Trench)
d. That they may be one as We are: The keeping work of God the Father in the disciples would not only keep them in Him, but it would also keep them together. Jesus prayed that they would be one, and one after the pattern of the unity of God the Father and God the Son (that they may be one as We are).
i. “The unity mentioned here is not simply a unity achieved by legislation. It is a unity of nature because it is comparable to that of the Son and the Father.” (Tenney)
ii. Their continued unity could not be assumed; it would make more sense for the disciples to scatter after the death of Jesus than it would for them to stay together.
iii. The unity Jesus prayed for among His people has a pattern. Even as the Father and the Son are one yet are not the same, we do not expect that genuine Christian unity will mean uniformity or unity of structure. It will mean unity of spirit, unity of heart, unity of purpose, and unity of destiny.
e. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name: Jesus thought back over His three years of service with and unto the apostolic band. During that time He protected and guided them; He kept them. That keeping work Jesus did in the name of His Father, with His authority and power and according to His will.
i. “The Lord here, as Cyril remarks, compares His keeping of His own, to that by the Father – in a way only accountable by both Persons being of equal Power and Dignity.” (Alford)
ii. “By the Father’s power, imparted to Jesus, Jesus himself has guarded them as a treasure entrusted to him by the Father, and now he gives an account of his stewardship.” (Bruce)
iii. Jesus did not keep His own disciples in and through His own name, but in total reliance upon God the Father. It is far more foolish for us to think we can keep ourselves or others in our own name, but our own effort or authority or will.
iv. The basis of Jesus’ request was rooted in the name (character) of God and in His ownership of the disciple (those whom You gave Me).
f. None of them is lost except the son of perdition: There was one exception to Jesus’ work in keeping the disciples, Judas. This was because in fulfillment of the Scriptures; Judas was the son of perdition, the one destined to evil and destruction.
i. “Remark, it is not “I lost none, but the son of perdition.’ – Christ did not lose him (compare chapter 18:9, where there is no exception), but he lost himself.” (Alford)
ii. “It may be well to notice, for the English reader, that in the original, the noun perdition is the derivative of the verb perished. None perished but the one who should perish; whose very state and attribute it was to perish.” (Alford)
iii. “‘The son of perdition’ points to character rather than destiny. The expression means that he was characterized by ‘lostness’, not that he was predestined to be ‘lost’.” (Morris)
g. That the Scripture might be fulfilled: The Scriptures fulfilled by the betrayal of Judas were especially Psalm 41:9 and Psalm 109:8, especially noted in Acts 1:20. The treachery and treason of Ahithophel against King David was a prophesy of the treachery and treason of Judas against the Son of David.
4. (13-16) Jesus elaborates on the first request: keep them in My joy and away from the evil one.
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
a. But now I come to You: Jesus again used this phrase, first noted in John 17:11. He prayed this prayer in full recognition of the soon accomplishment of His earthly work.
b. That they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves: Jesus prayed not only for the keeping of and the unity of His disciples, as if He only longed to leave behind good employees. He deeply cared for and prayed for joy fulfilled in their life. Specifically, Jesus prayed for His ownjoy to be fulfilled in His life.
i. “Their joy will be greater for remembering that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, prayed for his followers.” (Carson)
ii. Jesus had a life filled with joy; He could speak of My joy. If He did not, this part of the prayer would make no sense. Truly Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Nevertheless there was a joy and a satisfaction in the life experience of Jesus that surpassed the joy of any other who ever lived.
· His joy was rooted in unbroken fellowship with God His Father.
· His joy was the fruit of true faith and confidence in His Father.
· His joy came from seeing the great things God had done.
· His joy was never diminished by His own sin.
· His joy was never diminished by deception.
· His joy was never diminished by allowing even the smallest foothold to the devil.
iii. If Jesus was so concerned for joy among His disciples that He prayed for it, we can know that He is also concerned that we have joy. God’s purpose is to multiply joy in our lives, not to subtract it. The world, the flesh, and the devil would tell us something different, but God wants joy fulfilled in our lives.
c. Ihave given them Your word: Jesus faithfully delivered the word from God the Father unto His own disciples. Even Jesus saw Himself as a messenger.
i. I have given them Your word: “Not merely the oral teaching, but the whole revelation of The Father as manifested in the words and acts and personality of Jesus Christ.” (Trench)
ii. “See how the Lord Jesus himself takes all his teaching from the Father. You never hear from him any boast about being the originator of profound thoughts. No, he just repeated to his disciples the words he had received from the Father: ‘I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.’ If Jesus acted thus, how much more must the messengers of God receive the word from the Lord’s mouth, and speak it as they receive it!” (Spurgeon)
d. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world: This prayer of Jesus cautions us against seeking refuge in Christian isolation; in modern day monasteries. Our goal is to be in the world but not of it or of the evil one; even as a ship is to be in the ocean, but not allowing the ocean to be in the ship.
· If we were taken from the world, the world would be in utter darkness and would perish; Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” So, shine.
· If we were taken from the world, the world would not have us as a witness, to be a means of salvation unto them. So, win others to Jesus.
· If we were taken from the world, we would be denied the opportunity to serve Jesus in the same place we have sinned against Him. So, serve Jesus.
· If we were taken from the world, we would not see that there are aspects of God’s wisdom, truth, power and grace that are better appreciated on earth rather than in heaven. So, see the glory of the Lord.
· If we were taken from the world, we would be denied the place to prepare for heaven. There is no purgatory; our preparation is now. So, get ready for heaven.
· If we were taken from the world, we could not show the power of God’s grace to preserve us in the midst of difficulty. So, continue on.
i. Job and Moses and Elijah and Jonah all prayed that they would be taken out of the world, but God did not answer. He also wants us to stay in the world, to complete the work He gives us to do.
e. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one: Jesus definitely wanted us to be in the world, but He did not want us to be evil, or marked by the evil one. Jesus didn’t pray that we would be taken out of the battle, but that we would be strengthened and protected in it.
i. “The genitive ponerou might indeed be construed as neuter (‘keep them from evil’) rather than masculine (‘from the evil one’); but the reference is more probably to the being who has been thrice mentioned already as ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).” (Bruce)
ii. Jesus prayed for His own to be kept from the evil one, the world he rules, and of all of his evil schemes and strategies.
· Kept from the evil of apostasy.
· Kept from the evil of worldliness.
· Kept from the evil of unholiness.
· It is not to be kept from the evil of trouble or hardship.
iii. “The evil one, apparently, often operates through the hatred of the world (cf. 15:18-16:4); and the disciples are going to need protection against such malice.” (Carson)
iv. All need to be kept. If we think of the young man, we appreciate how he must be kept from sin. The young have their own evil to battle against. Passions are strong, lusts seem to burn hot, and the pressure to conform to the world seems so much greater. Yet there is great danger for the older man. There is no description in the Scriptures of a young man falling into sin; think of Joseph and Daniel, and how they resisted sin. The examples of sin are from the lives of middle-aged men, like David and Solomon and Lot and many others.
v. In a sermon speaking on this text, Spurgeon spoke to those who are in sin, yet do not feel it to be evil: “There are some of you who do not feel sin to be an evil; and shall I tell you why? Did you ever try to pull a bucket up a well? You know that, when it is full of water, you can pull it easily so long as the bucket remains in the water; but when it gets above the water, you know how heavy it is. It is just so with you. While you are in sin, you do not feel it to be a burden, it does not seem to be evil; but if the Lord once draws you out of sin, you will find it to be an intolerable, a heinous evil. May the Lord, this night, wind some of you up! Though you are very deep down, may he draw you up out of sin, and give you acceptance in the Beloved!” (Spurgeon)
f. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world: Because Jesus could see His disciples as in Him, He could see them as not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world. His call to His disciples was for them to be what they really were in Him.
i. Jesus didn’t simply say that His people were not of the world; He said they were not of the worldeven as He was not of the world – in other words, after the same pattern of Jesus’ not being of the world.
ii. It’s possible for someone to not be of the world, but in a very different way that Jesus was not of the world. They can be crazy, they can be violent, they can be weird, or it can be many things. But there was a particular way that Jesus was not of the world.
· Jesus was not of the world in His nature.
· Jesus was not of the world in His office.
· Jesus was not of the world in His character.
5. (17-19) Jesus’ second request for the disciples: sanctify them.
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
a. Sanctify them by Your truth: Sanctify means to be set apart for God’s special pleasure and use. It implies holiness, being set apart from the corruption of the world and for God’s use.
i. “The word hagios (rendered ‘sanctify,’ ‘hallow,’ ‘consecrate’) means to set-apart-and-devote-to-God: whether it be things, or sacrificial animals, or men for His service.” (Trench)
ii. Jesus didn’t just leave the disciples to sanctify themselves. He prayed for their sanctification. This process, as the keeping process, is not left to us alone; it is a work of God in us and through us.
b. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth: The dynamic behind sanctification is truth. The word of God read, heard, understood and applied.
i. “Sanctification is not effected apart from divine revelation.” (Morris)
ii. “The more truth you believe, the more sanctified you will be. The operation of truth upon the mind is to separate a man from the world unto the service of God.” (Spurgeon)
c. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world: The thought of service is sandwiched by sanctification. The sanctification Jesus had in mind here was not primarily personal holiness (though that is included), but more so being set apart for God’s service and mission.
i. “He does not merely leave them into the world, but sends them into it, to witness to this same truth of God.” (Alford) “The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin verb mitto, mittere, misi, missum, which means ‘to send’ or ‘dispatch.’ A mission is a sending forth.” (Boice) “They not merely remain in it because they can do nothing else; they are positively sent into it as their Master’s agents and messengers.” (Bruce)
ii. “Christ was the great Missionary, the Messiah, the Sent One; we are the minor missionaries, Sent out into the world to accomplish the Father’s will and purpose.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Christ’s commission is on a higher scale than ours; for he was sent to be a propitiation and covenant-head, and so came into positions which it would be presumption for us to dream of occupying. Still, there is a likeness though it be only that of a drop to the sea.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Think of how Jesus came, and connect it to the way that He sends us into the world:
· Jesus did not come as a philosopher like Plato or Aristotle, though He knew higher philosophy than them all.
· Jesus did not come as an inventor or a discoverer, though He could have invented new things and discovered new lands.
· Jesus did not come as a conqueror, though He was mightier than Alexander or Caesar.
· Jesus came to teach.
· Jesus came to live among us.
· Jesus came to suffer for truth and righteousness.
· Jesus came to rescue men.
v. “If Jesus does not explicitly pray for the world at this time (verse 9), yet his prayer for the disciples involves hope for the world.” (Bruce)
d. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself: One should not think that Jesus was unsanctified up to this point. Yet now He was about to enter a new aspect of being set aside for God the Father and His purpose: to complete the work of the cross. It was through that finished work that the word of God and work of God would become fully effective in the lives of the disciples (that they also may be sanctified by the truth).
i. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself: “As both priest, altar, and sacrifice; and this Christ did from the womb to the tomb; at his death especially.” (Trapp)
ii. “Chrysostom paraphrases ‘I sanctify myself’ as ‘I offer myself in sacrifice’. Here is a Johannine counterpart to the Gethsemane prayer.” (Bruce)
C. Jesus prays concerning all believers.
1. (20) Jesus broadens the scope of His prayer.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;”
a. I do not pray for these alone: Jesus prayed for His eleven disciples, but He also had the heart and the vision to pray beyond them. He prayed for those who would come to faith by the testimony of these disciples. He prayed for us.
i. “He prayed for them. He prays for us. He knew His intercession for them would prevail. He knows His intercession for us will prevail. Then let us rest in Him, with the rest of loving obedience and of surest confidence.” (Morgan)
b. Those who will believe in Me through their word: This shows that Jesus expected that the disciples’ soon failure would be only temporary. Others would hear from them, and many would come to belief in Jesus through the testimony of the disciples.
i. i. Jesus went to the cross knowing His work would endure. He didn’t have a vague hope in what God would do through the disciples. Jesus left His earthly work full of confidence in the work of God through the disciples.
ii. “The last section of Jesus’ prayer shows that he expected the failure of the disciples to be only temporary. The entire tone of the farewell discourse is built on the assumption that after the resurrection they would renew their faith and carry on a new ministry is the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Tenney)
iii. “By worldly standards of success Jesus had little to show for his mission.” (Bruce) Yet Jesus left His earthly work full of confidence in the work of God through the disciples.
2. (21) Jesus prays for unity among all believers, even as among the original disciples.
“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
a. That they all may be one: Jesus envisioned the great multitude before the throne of God of every nation, race, language, class, and social level (Revelation 7:9-10). Jesus prayed that they might rise above their different backgrounds and understand their unity; that they may all be as one.
i. It’s as if Jesus prayed with this in mind: “Father, I have prayed for the unity of the disciples You gave Me. Yet they are all Galileans, from this time and place. There will be countless others who also become disciples, and they will come from every nation, every language, every culture, every class, every status, from every age through the rest of history. Father, make them one.”
ii. “We are to be faithful to truth; but we are not to be of a contentious spirit, separating ourselves from those who are living members of the one and indivisible body of Christ. To promote the unity of the church, by creating new divisions, is not wise. Cultivate at once the love of the truth and the love of the brethren.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Why are we not one? Sin is the great dividing element. The perfectly holy would be perfectly united. The more saintly men are, the more they love their Lord and one another; and thus they come into closer union with each other.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Christ will have all his members to be one in spirit, one in rights and privileges, and one in the blessedness of the future world.” (Clarke)
b. That they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You: Earlier in this prayer Jesus prayed specifically that the eleven disciples present at His prayer remain unified (that they may be one as We are, John 17:11). Here Jesus broadened the sense of that prayer to all believers, that they all may be one.
i. As in the previous prayer for the eleven, Jesus prayed that their unity would follow the pattern of the unity of the Godhead, specifically in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. “If the Father is in him and he is in them, then the Father is in them: they are drawn into the very life of God, and the life of God is perfect love.” (Bruce)
ii. The repetition and extension of this prayer to all future believers is important. It shows that unity among the broader body of Jesus Christ was and is very important to Jesus.
iii. As You, Father, are in Me, and I in You also speaks to the truth that the foundation of our unity is the same as the foundation of unity between the Father and the Son: equality of person. We are all on the same ground at the cross.
iv. “Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. Uniformity may be found in death, but this unity is life. Those who are quite uniform may yet have no love to each other, while those who differ widely may still be truly and intensely one. Our children are not uniform, but they make one family.” (Spurgeon)
c. That they also may be one in Us: The oneness Jesus had in mind was the unity that comes from the shared life in both God the Father and God the Son.
i. As before, Jesus did not pray for uniformity or institutional unity among believers, but for unity rooted in love and a shared nature, bringing together the many different parts of Jesus’ one body. This isn’t a legislated uniformity seeking to unite wheat and tares, nor is it the unity of institutions. Jesus had in mind the true unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3).
ii. We must believe that this prayer was answered, and that the church is one. Our failure is in failing to recognize and walk in that divine fact.
d. That the world may believe that You sent Me: This was a remarkable statement. Jesus essentially gave the world permission to judge the validity of His ministry based on the unity of His people. Unity among God’s people helps the world to believe that the Father sent the Son.
i. “Even when he prays for their unity, he looks beyond their unity to the still unconverted world which stands in need of the witness generated by that unity.” (Carson)
3. (22) Jesus prays that the church would be marked by glory.
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:”
a. The glory which You gave Me I have given them: As God the Father shared His glory with God the Son (John 17:5), so Jesus gave glory unto His people.
i. There are many ways that Jesus gives His glory to His people.
· The glory of His presence.
· The glory of His Word.
· The glory of His Spirit.
· The glory of His power.
· The glory of His leadership.
· The glory of His preservation.
ii. In all these aspects, there is the essential aspect of the presence of Jesus, God the Son. Scripturally speaking, when God gives or displays His glory to His people, it is some type of manifestation of God’s presence. God’s glory is, in some way, the radiance or shining of His presence, His essential nature.
iii. The Apostle Paul also understood that Jesus gives His glory to His people: For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
b. The glory which You gave Me: It is important to remember that the glory that God the Father gave to God the Son was glory that often appeared humble, weak, and suffering. It was glory that was ultimately displayed in radical sacrifice. The glory of Jesus is almost the opposite of the self-glory and vainglory of man.
i. The glory of Jesus was ultimately displayed in His work on the cross. Jesus often referred to it as His glorification (John 7:39, 12:16, 12:23).
ii. “Just as His true glory was to follow the path of lowly service culminating in the cross, so for them the true glory lay in the path of lowly service wherever it might lead them.” (Morris)
c. That they may be one: The presence of glory – among the Persons of the Godhead and the member of Jesus’ Church – this glory contributes to the oneness and unity of God’s people.
i. Where there is a sense of God’s glory, unity is so much easier. Lesser things that often divide us are set far in the background when there is a sense of God’s glory at work.
4. (23) Jesus prays for a unity founded in love.
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
a. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one: Jesus again referred to the living, organic unity He prayed would exist among His people. This isn’t the totalitarian unity of coercion or fear, and it isn’t the unity of compromise. Jesus prayed for a unity of love and common identity in Him.
i. “Like sanctification, this oneness is simultaneously something already achieved and something that needs perfecting.” (Carson)
b. That the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me: Jesus here took the idea introduced in John 17:21 (that the world may believe that You sent Me) and expanded it. The repetition is notable, and so is the expansion.
i. The idea that the unity of God’s people would display to the world that Jesus was truly sent from God the Father was so important to Jesus that He repeated it in the same short prayer.
ii. Then Jesus expanded the idea, now praying that the unity among generations of believers to come would also demonstrate to the world that Jesus loves His people, and loves them after the pattern of God the Father’s love for God the Son (and have loved them as You have loved Me).
iii. This reminds us of the importance of unity and love among Christians. It is as if Jesus gave the world permission to doubt both His mission and His love if the world does not see unity and love among believers.
· This is difficult, because sometimes the most unloving and critical among the followers of Jesus directly justify their divisiveness and sharp criticism as love, as in “I only demand that you be exactly as I am because I love you.”
· This is difficult, because sometimes it is true that there must be criticism, correction, and rebuke in the name of love.
· This is difficult, because even as we understand the words of Jesus here, we also understand that there are many, many other reasons why people do not believe (2 Corinthians 3:13-16, Ephesians 4:17-19, Romans 1:20-21). Christians have a great responsibility to display Jesus to the world through their love and unity, but often Christians are too quick to blame one another for an unbelieving world.
iv. “But what a sad thing was it, that a heathen should soon after have cause to say, No beasts are so mischievous to men, as Christians are to one another.” (Trapp)
5. (24) Jesus prays to be with His people, and for them to see His glory.
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
a. I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am: Jesus asked that the unity between Himself and His people be completed, even as He promised His disciples that it would be (John 14:2-3).
i. The words “I desire” mean something. They mean that Jesus longs for the consummation of all things, greatly desiring for His people to be gathered to Him in heaven. Jesus longed for heaven’s completion of all things.
ii. Where I am: Jesus was not yet in heaven, yet He spoke as if He already were there. In a sense, we are called to do the same, understanding that we are seated with Jesus in heavenly places even as we remain on earth (Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6).
iii. “Was he not carried away by the fervor of his devotion? Where was he when he uttered the words of our text? If I follow the language I might conclude that our Lord was already in heaven. He says, ‘rather, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.’ Does he not mean that they should be in heaven with him? Of course he does; yet he was not in heaven; he was still in the midst of his apostles, in the body upon earth; and he had yet Gethsemane and Golgotha before him ere he could enter his glory. He had prayed himself into such an exaltation of feeling that his prayer was in heaven, and he himself was there in spirit.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Jesus promised something to His disciples (John 14:2-3) and then prayed that God the Father would perform it. Jesus did everything in dependence upon God the Father.
b. That they may behold My glory which You have given Me: This is what Jesus said would occupy the attention of His people in heaven – to behold the glory of Jesus. There must be something so deep, so enthralling, so vast to the glory of Jesus that it can occupy the attention of God’s people in eternity.
c. For You loved Me before the foundation of the world: Jesus said this in connection with the glory that God the Father gave to God the Son. This glory was given in the context of a love relationship, and a love relationship extending into eternity past.
i. This tells us that before anything was created, there was a love relationship between the Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity. Even if Jesus had not specifically told us this, we might have understood it by other Biblical truths, understanding that God is eternal (Micah 5:2) and that God is love (1 John 4:8 and 4:16). There was never a time when God did not love and was not love.
ii. Genuine love must have an object outside of itself to love; therefore love existed between the Persons of the Godhead before anything was created. The Triune nature of God is a not only Scripturally correct, it is a logical necessity given what we know of God through His revealed Word.
6. (25-26) The triumphant conclusion to Jesus’ prayer.
“O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
a. O righteous Father! Jesus was about to go to the cross and undergo the entire ordeal of His passion – all of it planned and sent by God the Father. Yet Jesus, full of love and honor towards God the Father cried out in concluding this prayer, “O righteous Father!”
i. Jesus understood that His present and soon-to-be-endured pain did not diminish the righteousness of God the Father in even the smallest way.
b. The world has not known You, but I have known You: Jesus understood both that the world did not know and understand God the Father, and that He did know and understand Him.
c. And these have known that You sent Me: Jesus repeated the idea first mentioned in this prayer at John 17:8. Whatever their weaknesses and failings, the disciples understood that God the Father sent God the Son.
d. I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it: Jesus ended this great prayer on a note of faith and even triumph. He knew that He had done His work, and would finish His course.
i. In one sense, the entire work of Jesus could be summed up in saying that He declared to the disciples and to the world the name of God the Father. That is, He revealed and lived out the character and nature of God the Father as the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3).
ii. The world called Jesus a blasphemer (John 10:33), a drunk, a glutton, and an associate of sinners (Matthew 11:19), a demon-possessed pagan (John 7:20 and 8:48), and an illegitimate child (John 8:41). Jesus believed none of it, because none of it was true. At the end He could confidently say, “I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it.”
e. That the love with which You loved Me may be in them: Jesus received love from God the Father, and this love relationship was the strength and sustenance of His life. Here, concluding His great prayer, Jesus prayed that the same love that was His strength and sustenance would fill His disciples (both near and far).
i. This speaks to the essential place of love in the Christian life and community. Jesus thought it so important that He specifically prayed for love when He might have prayed for many other things.
· Take love from joy and you have only hedonism.
· Take love from holiness and you have self-righteousness.
· Take love from truth and you have bitter orthodoxy.
· Take love from mission and you have conquest.
· Take love from unity and you have tyranny.
f. And I in them: Jesus prayed that His disciples would not only be filled with the love of God the Father, but that they would also know the indwelling presence of Jesus Himself. This continues the emphasis on abiding and the indwelling Jesus from the words of Jesus earlier that evening (John 15:1-8).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission